1 in 6 of the World's Children Live in a Conflict Zone

Globally, 426 million children live in conflict zones today. Nearly 200 million children are living in the world's most lethal war zones, the highest number in over a decade. And around the world, more than 89 million adolescent girls currently live in conflict zones.

Children living in war-affected countries live in constant fear, experiencing grave violations of their rights, with serious impacts on their mental health. Many children living in lethal war zones are already at risk of climate change and facing unprecedented levels of hunger as well.

Today, Save the Children is the world leader in protecting children from the physical and emotional wounds of war.  We've helped more children in crisis recover and return to learning than any other global humanitarian organization. Your generous support makes this work possible. Make a one-time donation to the Children's Emergency Fund or join Team Tomorrow to connect with the causes you care about - like conflict- through your monthly donation.

The 10 most dangerous countries for children living in conflict

Save the Children's report "Stop the War on Children: The Forgotten Ones" studied data from the 2022 report of the United Nations Secretary-General on children and armed conflict as well as the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) of children living in conflict zones to rank the 10 worst conflict-affected counties in which to be a child.

6. mali

7. nigeria

8. cameroon

9. sudan

10. central african republic

What Are the 6 Grave Violations Against Children?

The UN reports and monitors 6 grave violations against children.

In Yemen, a girl wears a white bandage covering her wounded eye and holds a doll in her hands.
Grave violations include:
  1. Killing and injuring of children
  2. Recruitment and use of children by armed forces or armed groups
  3. Abduction of children
  4. Attacks on schools or hospitals
  5. Refusal or lack of humanitarian support, like access to basic health care
  6. Rape and other forms of sexual violence

What Is the Impact of Conflict on Children?

Today, the nature of conflict – and its impact on children – is evolving. The world is witnessing deliberate campaigns of violence against civilians, including the targeting of schools, the abduction and enslavement of girls, and deliberate starvation.  

In today’s armed conflicts, there is often no longer a clearly demarcated battlefield: children’s homes and schools are the battlefield.

The nature of conflict has changed, putting children in the frontline in new and terrible ways. Wars are lasting longer. They are more likely to be fought in urban areas amongst civilian populations leading to deaths and life-changing injuries, and laying waste to the infrastructure needed to guarantee access to food and water. Attacks on schools and hospitals are up. 

Children are disproportionately suffering the consequences of these brutal trends.

The harm that is done to children in armed conflict is not only often more severe than that done to adults, it has longer lasting implications – for children themselves and for their societies.

The Distinctive Ways Children are Harmed by Armed Conflict

Children suffer in conflict in different ways than adults, partly because they are physically weaker and also because they have so much at stake – their physical, mental and psychosocial development are heavily dependent on the conditions they experience as children.

Conflict affects children differently depending on a number of personal characteristics, significantly gender and age, but also disability status, ethnicity, religion and whether they live in rural or urban locations. 

How Save the Children Helps Children in Conflict Zones

Save the Children believes that every child, no matter where they live, deserves to live a safe, happy and healthy life. We lead the world in protecting children from the physical and emotional wounds of war and have helped more children in crisis recover and return to learning than any other global humanitarian organization.

How many girls are living in conflict zones?

Conflict makes finding work harder, disrupts education, increases costs and poverty and weakes the protections that should be in place to keep children safe from violence. This in turn increases girls’ risk of child marriage because child marriage is sometimes seen as a way to reduce financial pressures on families or can be seen as a way to protect girls from other forms of gender-based violence

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a girl wears a covering over her head and turns her head from the camera.
  • Around the world, 89.2 million adolescent girls currently live in conflict zones – that’s almost 1 in 5 adolescent girls (aged 10-17 years).
  • Globally, girls affected by conflict are more than 20% more likely to marry as children than those living outside of conflict zones.
  • Increased risk of child marriage linked to conflict was even higher for girls in East Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and South Asia.
How Has the War in Ukraine Impacted Countries in Conflict?

In 2022, there was massive media attention on the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine. Between January and end of September 2022, Ukraine received five times more media coverage than the combined coverage of the ten worst conflict affected countries to be a child in 2021. Over the same period, media coverage of the conflict in Yemen – which topped the list as the worst conflict country to be a child – was just 2.3% of the media coverage given to the Ukraine conflict.

The international community’s response to the escalation of conflict in Ukraine should be a lesson in what is possible. All children caught up in conflict must be given the attention, solidarity, and protection they are entitled to and that they need to rebuild their lives. 

What Can You Do to Help Children in Conflict?

Donate today to our Children's Emergency Fund to help us respond quickly to humanitarian crises across the globe that are threatening children’s lives. Join our friends at Save the Children Action Network and add your name now to demand Congress invests in children’s futures in 2023 and beyond.

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